Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not Perfect...But My Imperfect

"As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him." 2 Samuel 22:31

Perfect is one of those words that we can use flippantly and broadly to refer to people or things that can't even begin to fulfill the meaning of the word. You know..."Oh, your hair looks just perfect!" or "That dress is really perfect." or "Their marriage is so perfect." or "We found the perfect church." Webster defines perfect as "being complete of its kind and without defect or blemish." Can we just agree right now that only God...the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit...and His Word are perfect? This beautiful planet we live on began as perfect, but was marred forever by the sin of man...and woman. Perfection will only be found again for us upon Christ's return, "when perfection comes, [and] the imperfect disappears." (1 Cor. 13:10)

I feel that I must begin with myself and admit that I am not perfect! (No "Amens" to that, please!) I would love to be the perfect Christian, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, writer...but I am not. I am far from "complete," and am endowed with great "defect(s)" and "blemish(es)"! My testimony is surely not perfect. I am appalled with some of the things that I have done, words that I have said, thoughts that I have had, decisions that I've made. No, my testimony is not perfect...but it is my imperfect. Praise His Name for unconditional and unfailing love, for forgiveness, grace, compassion, protection, and the lessons learned along the way...even the painful ones.

My walk with God is not perfect...I fail Him daily, sometimes by pulling the covers up higher when He is calling me out of bed and into quiet time with Him, when He tells me that the laundry or the dishes or my writing can wait because my child needs some cuddling time and I don't listen, when He calls me to write instead of laundry or dishes or cuddling, when I don't have a servant's heart, the right attitude, or contentment....The list could go on....But He never gives up. He woos me. He forgives me. He continues to mold and shape me. He whispers of His love for me. Oh, I'm so thankful for the One Who is the "perfecter of [my] faith" (Hebrews 12:2). And in that I have hope...even in my imperfect walk, because I know that "He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it." (Phil 1:6)

Our home is not perfect. Dust bunnies, piles of laundry, that lovely pinkish orange residue that shows up in the shower or toilet can sometimes be seen. My closet is messy. There are doggie paw prints on my floor. There are weeds in my flower garden (and some of my newly planted flowers are just not going to make it.) Our meals aren't always home-cooked or nutritionally balanced. Sometimes that white stuff that flecks off the milk jug collects in my fridge. No, it's not perfect, but it's our imperfect.

Our family is not perfect. Sometimes we get cranky. Sometimes we whine. Sometimes we take each other for granted. Sometimes we forget to say "thank you." Sometimes we "let the sun go down on our anger". Sometimes we watch too much TV. Sometimes some of us can't wait to take a few bites of dinner before we pray. Some members of our family burp (but do say "Excuse me."), and some members encourage them by saying, "Nice!" No, our family's not perfect, but it's our imperfect. And it is blessed by our gracious Heavenly Father.

In 2 Corinthians 13:9, Paul challenged the church at Corinth...and "Aim for perfection...." So, do we just say that it's impossible and give up? No! And I hope you don't mind if I use this verse out of context, but I think it can be an encouragement to us. "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9) We have hope! And, as the hymn says, "Our hope is found in nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." We must follow His way, stay in His Word, and allow Him to be our shield. He will make us like Him...perfect...forever. Praise His Name!

Our precious, perfect Heavenly Father, thank you for your unfailing and unconditional love. Thank you for pursuing us relentlessly. Thank you for molding and shaping us. Please help us to allow you to do the work to bring us to eternal perfection.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Bloomin' Article Revisited

"[You] will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His spendor." Isaiah 61:3b

Okay, I must confess right away that I'm sharing with you an article that I wrote a couple of years back. I also have to "come clean" that the beautiful flowers that brought the article to mind were planted by my wonderful new son-in-law, Brandon and our daughter, his bride, Rachel. My back yard is bursting with color...a mandevilla that's beauty is just beyond description, some brilliant fuschia gerbera daisies, pink begonias, a gardenia that sprouted it's first fragrant bloom today, and a lovely butterfly bush. With another wedding on the horizon, I didn't choose any rosebushes. I love them, but don't have time this summer for all of the pampering they need. Okay, true confessions aside, I hope you enjoy and are encouraged!

I have a new hobby! It is flower gardening. Now you should be laughing hysterically, because I‘m not really the outdoorsy type. I don‘t like getting my hands dirty. I’m not particularly fond of getting on my knees for anything (except prayer.) A shovel, fertilizer (especially cow manure), and bug spray have definitely never been items of interest to me…especially if I had to APPLY them. But God used the blessing of a precious friend who loves gardening to move me out of my comfort zone and into a place where I can be blessed by Him in a whole new way.

I’ve planted Gerbera Daisies, Hollyhocks (okay, John planted those, but it was my idea), and two rose bushes. The rose bushes were my first. I dug the holes. I followed my grandmother and granddaddy’s instructions step by step, including some gravel in the bottom of the hole, mixing the red clay with potting soil, and yes, mixing in some cow manure. What satisfaction I found in seeing that work completed! And I continue to be filled with joy daily as I water them and feed them, tend to them, prune off dead leaves, spray for bugs, and oh, how wonderful it is to be able to clip off a rose to put in a bud vase in my home or to share with someone!

I cut off a beautiful coral colored rose yesterday and put it in a bud vase. I placed it on the counter between our kitchen and den. I admired it all day! Last night, as Melea had her snack up on that bar, she was looking closely at the rose. She said, “Mommy, that rose has bugs on it!” Sure enough, it had some tiny green aphids on it. I knew that spraying the bushes to prevent bugs was on tap for today. After calling my daddy for advice on timing, I took care of that.

As I walked today, I pondered that whole scenario. I thought about how we, as women, all want to be beautiful just like that rose. And I believe that we can be, if we allow the Master Gardener to do His work in the gardens of our lives. He is the one who “dug the hole” as He fashioned our hearts to receive Him. He is the creator of the perfect formula for growing us into the women He desires for us to be. My grandmother says that the gravel that I put in the ground provides a good foundation for the roots to rest, and gives a means of drainage so that the roots aren’t drowned in soggy mud. Psalm 40:2 says, “He lifted me out of the…mud and…He set my feet on a rock.” And what a foundation that rock is, because “The Lord (Himself) is my rock…my deliverer…my rock, in whom I take refuge” (Psalm 18:2). Everything in our lives is filtered through His almighty hands. It is also essential that we are “planted” in good soil, which as Jesus referred to in Matthew 13:23 as “the man (or woman) who hears the Word and understands it.” The Word is life, and the Holy Spirit gives us understanding when we ask! Now to the cow manure! May I assume that we all have a little of that in our lives? 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 reminds us, “…do not lose heart…. For our…momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Allow that trouble, those circumstances to draw you to the One at work within you.

Now that the planting is complete, consent to let God do the “watering,” to fill you up till you are overflowing with Him. Concede as He prunes away that which is fruitless. And to receive the “bug spray,” put on the “full armor of God!” I encourage you to go to Ephesians 6:10-18 for that application! And as a result, “[you] will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor” (Isaiah 61:3b).

All too often we are caught up in the world’s definition of beauty. We allow magazines, movies, and TV to shape our concepts of what is beautiful. Too many times we look in the mirror and are not pleased with what we see because we have set unattainable, unrealistic standards. If we allow God’s beautification, through us, He will radiate a beauty that far exceeds the standards of the world!

Are you longing for beauty? True beauty? Allow the Master Gardener to do His work in and through you, and as promised in Zechariah 9:17 “How attractive and beautiful (you) will be!”

*All scripture references are NIV.

Monday, June 16, 2008

All in a Day's Walk

"Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess." Deuteronomy 5:33 (NIV)

As I took a walk in our neighborhood order to physically live and prolong my days by doing the healthy thing, God whispered His desire for me to ponder some precepts so that I may spiritually live and prosper and prolong my days in the land that He gives.

Though our neighborhood is small, it has a couple of nice hills to make the walk a little more challenging. I try to start out boldly and tackle the biggest hill first. I must admit, today it was a bit of a struggle. My calves and shins burned. I got really out of breath. My heart rate definitely picked up. Not that I would even begin to compare this with the walk up to Jerusalem, but it was neat to think about propelling myself on by singing a "song of ascent." I could definitely relate to the Psalmist who wrote, "I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from?" I came home and savored the remainder of Psalm 121, which says, "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber or sleep. The Lord watches over you-the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, not the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm-He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore." Mmmm, what comfort and encouragement.

And I could surely relate to the "shade at [my] right hand." I got off to a late start with my walk and it was already getting hot. The sun was beating down. Our neighborhood is fairly new and there aren't many shade trees near the sidewalk. When I reached the one (that I can particularly remember), I slowed my pace and enjoyed a brief moment of cooling. I thought about being the "apple of His eye" and feeling respite in the "shadow of His wings." (Ps. 17:8) And a wonderful thing about His shadow is that, unlike the shadow of that little tree, which grows and shrinks with the moving of the sun, we can learn from James 1:17 that "Every good and perfect gift (even a little shade or a cool breeze) is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." Mmmm, He never changes. He loves us unfailingly.

After lots of sweating, I arrived at home...very thirsty. As I drank that cool, refreshing water, I thought, "Oh Lord, I want to be that thirsty for You and for Your Word." I shared in David's sentiment from Psalm 63, "O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your Name I will lift up my hands." Mmmm, He satisfies.

Lord, thank You for putting Your love and Your beauty before us. Thank You for listening to our hearts and responding to our cries. Thank you for revealing your Spirit to us so tangibly.
Thank you for your comfort and encouragement. Thank you for being unchanging and unfailing. Thank you for satisfying. Please walk with us, guide us, "Show [us] the way [we] should go, for to You [we] lift up [our] souls." (Ps. 143:8b)

Friday, June 13, 2008

SONshine on a Cloudy Day

"At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory." Mark 13:26

I don't recall the date, or how old I was, or even where I was, but I distinctly remember a day that I looked up at the sky and realized that no matter what the sky looked like...dark, ominous storm clouds, puffy white billows, or gray-white haze...that there was always blue sky behind it. It was a stark revelation! I totally didn't expect it. From every direction, as far as the eye could see, it just seemed that the cloud cover was height, in depth, in width. And then there was this a porthole, or a view through a periscope, or the sight when looking through a wrapping paper cardboard tube...not such that you can see the whole background, but just a circular glimpse of the most brilliant hue of blue. I'll never forget it, the realization that it is always back there...behind the clouds.

This memory was triggered as I was working through the last days of Fingerprints of God, a Bible study by Jennifer Rothschild. The title for the day's study was "Canvas for His Glory," and the focal Scripture for the day was John 9:3, which says, "...but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." The passage refers to the healing of a man born blind. Jennifer (who is also blind) pointed out something key in these few verses, that is probably often overlooked. She asked, "Did you catch the sequence?" She said, "Jesus said that the man's blindness happened for God's glory before He actually healed him." She went on to say, "My friends, the work of God is displayed in the heartache-not only in the healing."

Jennifer asked the questions, "If God is using your difficulty as a canvas for His glory...What colors would He use? What subject would He capture? How long would it take to complete His work?"

Here's where I happened to remember the blue sky revelation incident. When I answered the "What colors would He use?" question, I wrote dark grayish...surrounding a circular splash of sapphire blue with bright yellow right in the center. That was to capture the subject that He, the SON/sun is always there, in the center, no matter what storm clouds may be hovering. Since I'm already interjecting personally, I'll go ahead and answer the third question, as to how long will it take Him to complete His work...forever. But I know that "He who began a good work...will carry it on to completion!" (Phil. 1:6)

Our life's "clouds" come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of intensity. Sometimes we stand stunned, as the disciples did, when "a cloud hid Him from their sight." (Acts 1:9) We must remember that wasn't the end of the story! As we are told in Mark 13:26, "At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory." And in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, we "will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."

And until that day comes, we must cling to the many truths in His Word that remind us that "It is God who arms [us] with strength..." (Ps. 18:32), and that "[He is our] lamp...the Lord turns [our] darkness into light." (2 Sam. 22:29) We are promised many times in Scripture that we must "Be strong and courageous....for the Lord your God goes with you;he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deut. 31:6, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5)

Oh Lord, our God, thank you for being our light, for being willing to dwell even in the dark clouds (1Kings 8:12), for promising to never leave us or forsake us. Thank you that we can trust you to work a masterpiece on the canvas of our lives if we yield to the strokes of your hand. May your work be displayed in both our heartaches and our healing. Only a God like You.